Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis peers into the future of accountability in a world of expanding parental choice. (RedefineED)
     
  2. Speaking of parental choice, a very strange news conference took place at the Lucas County Democratic Party HQ yesterday, announcing nothing newsworthy except to reiterate the views of the Toledo teachers union and local Democrats (two different groups, mind you) that charter schools are a destructive evil that’s causing Toledoans (Toledoites? Toledopolitans?) to suffer. But not good charter schools. They're OK. Oh, and not non-profit good ones either. Mostly just the for-profit ones…that are bad. Luckily one Republican flack and OCQE’s Ron Adler were on hand to lend some balance. Still, nothing newsworthy in this story. At all. (Toledo Blade)
     
  3. The Enquirer parses out passing rates for sophomores in Ohio's public school on this year’s final ever administration of the Ohio Graduation Test. Statewide, around 70 percent passed all five sections. In the Cincy area, it was 73.6 percent. Conveniently, there’s a bottom-five list that includes Winton Woods at 53 percent, New Miami at 50.8 percent, and Mount Healthy at 39 percent. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  4. Of course, the Enquirer piece notes that the graduation testing landscape is a-changing in Ohio. As noted yesterday, those changes include a condition on private schools’ exemption from state testing. The Ohio Association of Independent Schools chats to the PD about that very thing today. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. That new graduation testing landscape was also on the mind of StateImpact’s Amy Hansen
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  1. We start in Cincinnati today with a guest commentary extolling the virtues of some very fine charter schools around Ohio...but mostly in Columbus. Weird. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. The revolving door at the state Board of Education may be slowing down. Governor Kasich has already appointed a replacement for the member who resigned earlier this week. Interesting note here about this being the “rural seat”. That leaves only one more to fill, although that one’s been open longer. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. The largest of Ohio’s teachers unions is urging Kasich to "drop kick" a provision in the MBR that would provide more money to dropout-recovery charter schools. The story goes to some pains to explain that not all dropout-recovery charters are run by White Hat Management (perennial union whipping boy) and that not all are in the graduation-rate basement, but to quote the OFT president: “Why would we give funds to something that has already proven to be worse than effective?" Why indeed? (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. Speaking of teachers in Cleveland, the CMSD board met late into the night on Tuesday and one of its big agenda items was hearing final appeals for teachers identified for termination by their principals. The PD has been following this story all along, and we’ve been paying attention. From the initial 68 staffers identified, it came down to 12 teachers who appealed all the way to board. All 12 were terminated. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. So that “bus driver gambling
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  1. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a guest on Good Mornings with Chris Oaks yesterday, talking Common Core in Ohio. (WFIN-AM, Findlay)
     
  2. Common Core is also on the mind of public radio reporter Bill Rice in Cleveland, whose interview subjects seem pretty sure that attempts to turn back the new standards in Ohio will fail. (IdeaStream, Cleveland)
     
  3. Editors in Akron opine against the sausage-making exercise that is the budget process in Ohio, more specifically, the recent mid-biennium budget review bill. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  4. I know I’m going to regret fudging my rule against clipping letters to the editor, but seriously, when the CEO of White Hat Management writes in to take the PD to task, it’s probably worth a read. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  5. Aw man. What did I tell you? Slippery slope. Here’s another letter to the editor of the PD from a high school student who doesn't like the Common Core. Her conclusion: “Even though the idea of the Common Core sounds great, the cost of implementation and limitation on classroom freedoms is not worth it.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  6. Back to “hard news” now: The PD parses out winners and losers in the teacher evaluation changes contained in the education MBR. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  7. Ten years ago, the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and dozens of media organizations across the state performed their own “audit” of public entities (counties, cities, utilities, school districts, etc.) in regard to ease
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  1. Editors in Columbus opine favorably on the education MBR, covering many of the same points that we have recently made. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  2. One piece of the MBR legislation that very few folks are pleased about relates to a windfall for dropout recovery charter schools. Editors in Cleveland opine against that provision and urge Governor Kasich to use his line-item veto power to “drop-kick it” from the bill before signing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Fordham’s 2010 Needles in a Haystack report on high-achieving urban schools around Ohio is namechecked in today's PD story about Concept Schools coming under investigation by federal authorities for what is termed a “white-collar matter”. Concept runs a number of charter schools around the country, including Horizon Science Academy in Cleveland, featured in the first Needles report. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. The State Board of Education is meeting in Columbus this week, but is still playing catchup in filling all its open seats. One new member was sworn in yesterday, but the resignation of another was accepted. There are still two unfilled seats. Check out coverage in the Columbus Dispatch and in Gongwer Ohio.
     
  5. How local is your local control if your superintendent and 10 of 13 administrators live outside the district? That question is being raised by a long-time Canton Schools board member in the wake of his resignation. (Canton Repository)
     
  6. We told you about the impending kick off of Columbus Mayor Michael
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Like many states, Ohio has lately undertaken a slew of ambitious but much-needed K–12 education reforms. In the Buckeye State, these include ratcheting up academic-content standards (e.g., Ohio’s New Learning Standards, which includes the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts), bringing new assessments online, putting in place new accountability measures, and expanding and ensuring quality school choices for parents and students. Taken together, these changes are significantly changing the ecosystem of Ohio’s public schools.

The spring session of the Ohio General Assembly generated few significant new reforms. But lawmakers pulled off a mostly commendable nip-and-tuck job on those already adopted. They fine-tuned several big reform initiatives in ways that should help schools put them into practice. They also improved accountability for Ohio’s school-choice programs. The Mid-Biennium Review bills (House Bills 483 and 487) now await the signature of Governor Kasich. Here we discuss the most substantive policy issues (save for teacher evaluations, which are discussed in the following piece).

Pausing Accountability

The General Assembly reasserted Ohio’s commitment to the Common Core and to the PARCC assessments. But it prudently slowed things down a bit. To help schools adjust to these new and more-challenging expectations, the legislature provided a one-year “safe harbor” for districts and schools. For the 2014–15 school year, the first year that PARCC will be fully operational, the legislature exempts schools and districts from accountability sanctions such as automatic charter closure, state receivership (via the Academic Distress Commission), and...

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The Senate and House finally reached a compromise over changes to Ohio’s teacher-evaluation system (OTES), which, in its first year of statewide implementation, has drawn criticism from school leaders arising from what they say is its administrative burden. Some felt that, as a result of its classroom-observation mandates, principals may not have time to properly support any teacher, let alone those who struggle.

This journey began with a Senate bill passed back in December (Senate Bill 229), which continued with the House Education Committee proposing major changes—followed by weeks of debate on the competing versions. (A comparison of the two bills can be found here, and our analysis of the House bill is here.)

The compromise ended up in House Bill 362, which originally dealt with STEM-school matters. It now awaits Governor Kasich’s signature. Major changes include giving districts the option of changing the percentage of an evaluation tied to teacher performance and student growth from 50 percent to 42.5 percent each; providing districts with several different ways to make up the remaining 15 percent, including (but not limited to) student surveys; and allowing districts to be flexible with the observation frequency of top-rated teachers.

Everyone loves a happy ending. But as a former teacher, this bill leaves me with several lingering questions, as does OTES itself.

First, this has been the first year of OTES implementation for most Ohio districts. End-of-year test results won’t even be published until later this summer. So why were...

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Ohio’s new school-building and district report cards got a big thumbs up from both parent reviewers and wonky researchers in a new study from the Education Commission of the States. In fact, Ohio was the recipient of the highest praise in the study which looked at accountability efforts in all fifty states. Reviews cited breadth of measures, ease of interpretation, and easy accessibility, among other things. And that position stands to improve with expanded data elements planned for roll out in 2015. Just one question remains: if this is so awesome, why did only the Dayton Daily News cover this prestigious result?

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The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, in partnership with SRI International, has released a new report on blended learning that seems to indicate that, despite its many fans and rapid growth, kinks remain to get resolved if it’s to be transformative. Many software and online programs were found to be inadequate, glitchy, and poorly aligned to schools’ pace and sequence of instruction; insufficient bandwidth and hardware problems abounded; personalization of content to individual students was a problem for children on both the low and high ends of the ability spectrum; and multiple streams of data confounded teachers as to students’ understanding of material. The Ohio Gadfly fears that “user errors” of the types reported here could consign online teaching and learning to the category of something else to occupy students while the teachers grade papers. That would be a terrible...

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  1. A couple of last week’s topics have continued in dicussion through the weekend. First up, NCTQ’s report on teacher absences. The Enquirer published a commentary pinning at least one third of teacher absences reported in that survey on "state mandates" and the training time required for teachers. Common Core, new Kindergarten assessments, OTES, third grade reading, and a number of other buzzwords are also blamed. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
     
  2. Next up, the Beacon Journal takes on the new “3 paths to graduation” set out by the education MBR; specifically, the path that gives $5 million to dropout recovery schools. There are tons of questions still to answer, but the ABJ seems staunchly opposed at this juncture. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  3. In other news, the only piece of Columbus’ failed reform levy from last fall to get a toehold into reality - $5 million for preschool programs – is moving forward already, but the preK plans appear to be baffling even folks on the inside. I have to ask: is this supposed to be education support or job support? And how on earth – and why on earth – is the program going to limit its support to folks who plan to send their kids to Columbus Public Schools? More may be known after this morning’s kickoff event. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. A commentary in the Enquirer brings back to our attention the proposed removal of the term "thorough and efficient" from the Ohio Constitution by a subcommittee of
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  1. Reporting continues across the state in regard to the K-12 education MBR bill and other education legislation moving through the General Assembly. The Vindy focuses its story on the creation of 3 paths to a diploma, emphasizing that legislative changes recognize one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to K-12. (Youngstown Vindicator)
     
  2. In the Dayton area, superintendents generally seem to like the new graduation options as well, although there are clearly a number of questions yet to be answered. The kid on the street appears to be split. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  3. StateImpact focuses on Ohio’s apparently staunch commitment to the Common Core. (StateImpact Ohio)
     
  4. Speaking of which, Rep. Gerald Stebelton is quoted in this public radio piece as saying, “As long as I’m the chairman of the House Education Committee, we're going to have Common Core.” But, of course, Stebelton is term-limited and will be out of office by the end of 2014. (WKSU Radio, Kent)
     
  5. And finally, the Dispatch reports on the legislation’s requirement that districts create parent panels to review/discuss/approve curriculum materials. The discussion in the online comments section is more substantive and interesting than usual.  (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  6. In other news, the PD took another look at NCTQ's teacher-absence report and this follow-up story suggests that CMSD’s large number of in-school-time training sessions could have led to a skewing of the number. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  7. As our last stop for the week, we look at
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The Ohio Gadfly is extremely excited to announce an addition to our Columbus office. Jessica Poiner, a former teacher, has joined our team as an education policy analyst. For an introduction, here’s Jessica in her own words:

My name is Jessica Poiner. I’m the middle child in a family of three daughters, born and raised in Akron, Ohio. Most of my growing up took place in the suburb of Stow, where I spent a lot of time (probably too much time, if my three knee surgeries are any indication) playing soccer and reading anything I could get my hands on.

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher explained a fun new class activity that functioned something like a board game. Every student had a game piece, and we earned chances to roll the dice on Fridays based on our behavior and quiz scores. I have no idea what my peers thought of the game, but I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to be a teacher so that I could design cool games for my students.

Fast-forward to May of 2011. I’ve just graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University with a degree in English. I’ve loaded my entire life into boxes and suitcases. My parents and I are driving twelve hours south to Memphis, Tennessee because I joined Teach For America. I’m going to be an English teacher in inner-city Memphis at one of the lowest-performing high schools in the state.

The next few years were life-altering....

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